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Shadow SaaS: The Silent Culprit Behind Technical Identity Debt

Feb 2, 2024

Feb 2, 2024

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4 min

As enterprises strive to modernize legacy identity and access management (IAM) systems as companies embrace business-led IT, understanding and mitigating the risks associated with shadow SaaS is crucial.

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Young-Sae Song
CMO
Shadow SaaS: The Silent Culprit Behind Technical Identity Debt
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In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, security and risk management leaders are grappling with a formidable challenge: managing the technical identity debt that increasingly burdens their organizations. As Gartner discusses in its recent report, Reduce IAM Technical Debt, the debt, often hidden in the shadows of complex IT environments, is largely fueled by the unchecked proliferation of shadow SaaS (Software as a Service) applications. As enterprises strive to modernize legacy identity and access management (IAM) systems as companies embrace business-led IT, understanding and mitigating the risks associated with shadow SaaS is crucial.

The Perils of Shadow SaaS

Shadow SaaS, the use of unauthorized cloud applications by employees, is a key driver of IAM technical debt. This phenomenon creates invisible yet significant vulnerabilities in an organization’s security posture. When employees adopt these unauthorized applications, they often bypass the centralized IAM controls designed to protect the enterprise. This unauthorized usage not only undermines security protocols but also creates fragmented identity ecosystems that are difficult to monitor and manage.

To combat this, companies must adopt a strategic approach to modernize their IAM systems. This involves transitioning from siloed IAM tools to a unified architecture, an approach that enhances agility and risk management. By adopting identity fabric principles, organizations can assess their IAM deployments more effectively, integrating disparate tools into a cohesive system that addresses both business and security needs.

Shadow SaaS Discovery: The Foundation

Improving shadow SaaS discovery is paramount in modern IT to govern it. Organizations must discover all identities and map them against entitlements in various applications and systems. Utilizing a range of discovery tools can illuminate hidden corners where Shadow SaaS might lurk, thus allowing for more effective governance and control.

Relying on legacy tools or integrating multigenerational IAM tools can support centralized administration while maintaining decentralized enforcement of IAM controls. Simplifying application enrollment for user administration and access management can also foster wider adoption of IAM controls, ensuring that new applications are brought under the umbrella of organizational oversight, reducing the propensity for Shadow SaaS adoption.  As the report highlights, the Grip SaaS Security Control Plane is able to provide shadow SaaS discovery beyond what traditional SaaS security products like CASBs are able to deliver.

A Proactive Stance Against Shadow SaaS

To effectively manage and reduce technical identity debt, it is crucial for IAM teams to identify, manage, and remediate technical debt proactively. This includes regularly auditing and monitoring Shadow SaaS usage and integrating these applications into the centralized IAM framework wherever possible. By doing so, organizations can improve their agility, reduce risk, and increase the coverage of IAM controls across their hybrid and multicloud environments.

In conclusion, Shadow SaaS is a key cause of technical identity debt, posing significant risks to an organization's security and operational efficiency. By adopting a strategic, incremental approach to modernize IAM systems, improving observability, and integrating diverse IAM tools, organizations can mitigate these risks. This proactive approach towards managing technical identity debt is not just about securing the digital environment; it's a strategic imperative for sustaining business resilience in an increasingly complex and cloud-driven world.

Contact Grip to gain visibility into your IAM technical debt and understand what can be done to reduce it through automated discovery and remediation.

Additional Resources:

·  Grip SaaS Security Control Plane Datasheet

·  SaaS Security Use Cases

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